The Competitive Sport of Wisconsin Small Talk

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The worst thing about Wisconsin’s winter is not only that it sucks, it’s that you’re forced to talk about it.

As I leave behind the cold February wind and unwrap six layers of winter gear, I see Wendy from HR walking into the building. Our eyes meet. I’m terrified, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s on. I’m trapped. It’s time for small talk.


Am I scared? Of course. This is not any kind of small talk, but Wisconsin small talk. And I’m facing Wendy herself, the queen of chit chat. It’s the big leagues. She approaches with the warmest smile, her face slightly tilted. Oh, she’s good. People tremble when poised against her baby pictures. There are rumors of some defenseless souls who have been exposed to up to five of her crochet projects. This is not amateur hour.

“Esteban!” she shouts, opening her eyes wide. “I almost didn’t make it. I have no idea how I actually got out of bed!” she says, pointing at the whirlwind outside. This is why she’s a legend. Not even a “Hey,” no sign of a “how are you” – we’re going straight into the weather. The worst thing about Wisconsin’s winter is not only that it sucks, it’s that you’re forced to talk about it. But I don’t even flinch. I’ve been training. Big smile, hands on the waist, strong eye contact. “The only thing that got me out of bed,” I say, skipping a beat for maximum effect. “was coffee!” She bursts into laughter. Oh, how we chuckle and howl. I’m starting strong. Maybe Wendy from HR has finally met her match.

I’ve been training on my Wisconsin small talk since I arrived to Madison 6 years ago. Nothing prepared me for such professional chit-chat. Sure, everyone’s proud of the Packers, but nobody seems proud of Wisconsinites’ greatest pastime. And as an immigrant from South America I tried too long to avoid it: arriving late to all meetings, speaking Español to my Uber driver, or keeping my groceries under 12 items or less so I can use the self-check out machine at Woodman’s.

Every encounter between any living multicellular form involves a power struggle. Some animals show their teeth, some animals emit incoherent sounds, and others sniff butts. Small talk is nothing but an overly complicated version of the first two. And I felt terrified of playing this game of repartee with such pros. It felt like being tossed in to play basketball with Michael Jordan, or like trying to prove a point using outdated sports references because everything you know about American sports is the 1996 live action/animated classic film Space Jam.

Hi, I’m Michael, get ready to jam.

Wendy and I move slowly down the hall and I feel like I’m doing great. She talks about the unpredictability of March, I mention Al Gore, we share a moment of silence for the polar bears. I wonder why people here are so keen on these performances of social comfort. There’s no need for small talk where I’m from. Quito is a relatively big, cosmopolitan city, so that may be part of it. In South America we kiss hello with strangers, quickly compliment each other, and go on our way. There’s no need to establish a social connection when we’re already tightly linked by Salsa music, Catholicism, and all those germs from kissing strangers. Maybe the intensity of these things keeps us on the move. If I wanted to know any personal detail about my coworkers I could just ask my aunt Julia. Here in the US all CIA information is classified, but in Ecuador you can gain access to the Aunt Intelligence Network with a phone call and the promise of some herbal tea.

When Wendy and I reach the end of the hallway and notice we are clearly going in opposite directions, it’s evident neither of us wants to let it go. I refuse to lose. Too much is on the line for me. This is graduation day. I am not going to go gently into the “have a good day.” Defeating Wendy would mean I’m no longer scared of small talk. It means I can look Wisconsin’s weather in its ugly face and say “I understand you. I understand your people.” It means I can feel ok with wearing an orange Styrofoam wedge on my head. But also, I must confess: compared to the freezing gray outside, Wendy’s casual banter is making me feel warm inside. It makes me realize that small talk is the only logical reason why someone would ever settle on Wisconsin.

I couldn’t fathom the existence of early Wisconsin settlers who, after setting up and getting comfortable in the Wisconsin summer, witnessed their first Midwest winter weather. What stopped them from packing up and heading south? I can now guess someone made eye contact and said “Can you believe this weather?” And the extended chatter that followed lasted until the answer was yes, they could believe it now, and it was time to collect berries, and fish, and run from bears or whatever. Wendy helped me understand that. Sure, the weather sucks, but that’s a small price to pay for the ability to connect with your community about how much it sucks. Exactly how much did it suck for you this morning? How much does it suck compared to other years? How hard is it for you to believe in how bad the weather has sucked this season? You answer some of these questions and suddenly you warm up to the idea of a collective embrace.

This weather SUCKS!

As far as who won our small-talk competition, no one gave it up. So after 42 minutes and two follow-up emails later, we decided we are getting married. Maybe next May or June, when the weather gets better. We’ll choose a date as soon as we’re done talking about construction on the beltline, which I assume will take a couple more weeks.

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Judd Apatow Takes a 5 Minute Break

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Judd Apatow stands in a corner of the stage in silence while we wait for paramedics to arrive. The entire sold-out crowd of a Sunday early show is looking at the back table, where a man has passed out. 

There’s nothing to do but to wait anxiously for this new spectacle to be over, so we all stand in silence. It’s as awkward and quiet as a Prius. The entire room feels like a religious painting from one of Quito’s Catholic churches, those dark baroque oils (minus the impaling demons): hands covering mouths, eyes wide open in expectation, all looking into darkness. We don’t know if the man is ok.

Mike comes out of the booth and whispers in my ear. “Wow, he’s killing.”

I try not to laugh, but it’s true. Five minutes ago the entire room was bursting with laughter. The scene is surreal and unsettling. In the silence I look at Judd and I realize that after 48 hours of having a small glance at one of the most prolific comedic voices of our generation, and seeing him running around along with his small team -his assistant Scott, and his feature comic Wayne Federman – there’s something perhaps more surprising:  Judd Apatow has no choice but to take a 5 minute break, and this is the first time I’ve seen him not working.

48 hours earlier, as I jumped on stage to host our first Friday show I felt a sharp pain in my back, and I had the feeling I suddenly aged. It was a pain that felt like it would stay with me until I died. As I continued to work with Judd for 3 nights, a total of 6 shows, I lazily sat around while this man, fourteen years my senior, ran around, canvassing before the election, calling in interviews, coordinating a benefit show in Milwaukee for children. He even made some time to text the president of a major entertainment corporation, calling him out for a racist commercial that was running on a three-lettered channel. That was one day. What had I done that whole weekend, besides scheduled laundry? Not even laundry.

“I’m just stressed all day long trying to think of things. I’m sitting there thinking, Why aren’t you thinking of anything? You’re behind. You need to get going.

From Sick in the Head

I didn’t feel the need to ask him for advice, as I learned quickly what his answer might have been. There’s no easy way. No shortcuts. This unspoken answer was a disappointment for me, as I would very much appreciate a shortcut in my lazy comedy career (can I call 2 open mics and 30 minutes of writing a week a career?).  It was a disappointment too for one of Judd’s fans, an older lady who told me she had driven from far away just to see him, hopefully meet him, and hopefully give him, if possible and with my help, this very good script she wrote (she mischievously cracked her purse open to show it to me, like a contraband kitten).

I couldn’t believe someone could think that would be a possibility, but I also felt a connection to her: I would love if I could pull my talent out of a briefcase and just hand it to someone who could let the entire world know its worth. I wish I had the balls to have pitched Judd my spec script of “2 Funny 2 People,” my sequel in the “Funny People” Universe. But I didn’t.

The room is so quiet you can listen to the hum of the mic’s feedback. Everyone is looking at the back table, which is also surprisingly quiet. We’re all dying to know if the man is conscious, if his family and friends are ok, and if those paramedics are single (both of them ripped, hot humans. Very distracting). Judd just stands there, not used to being the person furthest away from attention.

As busy as he is Judd Apatow is a listener. His talent comes from an obsessive attention to what others are saying. When he was 14 years old he went to several comedians’ homes, including Jerry Seinfeld and Garry Shandling, in order to talk about comedy, and he’s been busy since. “He never stops,” his assistant Scott told me during one of his shows. He was glued to the monitor right outside the show room, briefly turning to me to respond to my questions. He’s expected to note how his latest jokes are doing, what could be done better, what didn’t work. He also needs to be ready in case Judd wanted to show the audience his slideshow, which includes a picture of him with Stormy Daniels (for six shows Scott was on hold, the slideshow was summoned once). “I’m expected to be available 24/7,” he tells me, and smiles. “It’s exhausting.” I can tell he works as hard as Judd does. I can tell he loves it too. He’s always on a great mood. He’s also on a break.

The hot paramedics confirm the man is conscious, and carry him outside on a stretcher. Judd thanks the audience for their patience. Is this the end of the show?  We all know the man and his family are OK. He takes a second to check the crowd. Measure the odds. “Good timing on him. The show was almost over anyway,” he says, and the silence bubble bursts in laughter. Apatow is back to work. Mike goes back to the booth. Scott glances back up to the monitor. Doors close, lights dim, glasses clink. And I just sit there, thinking about how this weekend has taught me the value of hard work. Maybe I’ll write about it, and finish a piece by tomorrow, November 5th. By next week, tops. For now I’m just waiting for Judd to hit his closer, so I can go back up and close the show, hopefully soon. I’m kind of jealous of that stretcher, to be perfectly honest. The pain in my back is killing me.

Mark’s Phone Wants to Break Up

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Right after his phone broke up with him Mark recalled all the signs he had missed. He had felt it distant, lately, as if every notification came with a sigh, every calendar input with an extra turn of the little circle, every reaction to the ON button a little off. He had looked down for his magazine to check if it was time for bed, but all the phone had said was “It’s over between us.” And in his futile search for explanations he realized he should’ve seen it. He remembered that day when it had refused to be unlocked. Or the morning he woke up uncharged, completely disregarding its plugged battery. Oh he should’ve seen it.

Was there anything he could do to fix this? He acknowledged it. He had been distant. No surprise there. Roaming while camping, keeping it in his pocket while having dinner, reading a book in the bathroom -a fucking book! Always with the perfect excuse. Zero photos of the Steely Dan tribute concert: he had low battery. Zero emojis in a two-hour span: He was driving. He could’ve taken a couple snaps on airplane mode, he could’ve at least checked it for notifications during the boring stretches of the highway, but no, he chose to keep it in his back pocket like another cheap leather wallet. He was not going to blame this one on the manufacturer. It was not another LG 5S story. This one was on him.

“Please don’t do this to me…” he said, watching his own reflection on its dark screen. “I’m sorry!” Had he really changed that much since they first met at the Verizon store months ago? He was there looking for another LG, hell, even a Samsung, something casual he could use for a couple of months. He just wanted to have fun. But as he browsed, the clerk (his name was Dan, as he would learn later when they had returned weeks later to thank him again) pointed it out from the other corner of the store. “That one would be perfect for you.” The first thing Mark noticed was its cute silver-coated power button, curiously placed in its back, and not at the side like the ordinary 5S. He greeted it with a gentle swipe and with its first start screen animation he was taken. Oh it was so beautiful, with its perfect color display with popping reds and that graceful silver chrome finish at the bottom of the screen. He felt like a boy watching his prom date descending the stairs. The rest was a formality. Mark asked some follow-up questions, tried to keep casual when his heart was racing. He had it unpackaged and on in minutes. They didn’t even reach the car. Hell, they almost didn’t make it to the parking lot! He had thrown the packaging with the receipt in the ashtray, right outside the store, the ultimate promise of a serious commitment. They spent an hour just getting to know each other right there, in the parking lot of a Verizon store. Their first date.

Could he try to be that person again? He pleaded and cried, he tried to restart it, but it kept repeating and repeating the same black home screen with those words. No chance to argue. No chance to talk. At least tell me why, burn my pocket, give me the stuck-at-home-screen treatment, anything else but that horrible matrix-green Courier font bullshit of “It’s over between us.” Fuck you. Fuck! You! At least have the decency of lying to me. At least give me the “it’s not you it’s my operating system” shit. It would be at least something, a lie as a mantra he could have repeated to himself that night to try to get some sleep.

The darkness of his screenless night kept bringing back memories of their displays of intimacy. Like when he changed the PIN lock to a thumb recognition. The phone enjoyed that intensely, shaking mildly after the three seconds of contact, opening up its home screen like a flower, giving in to that same thumb now slowly exploring the pages of the apps menu, going back, fidgeting with its widgets until it would let him know with a gentle vibration exactly how far he could go. As the screen would gradually warm up he would slide down the notification panel, gently revealing its bare settings, and it would vigorously close its idle apps, and it would dim its brightness, and…

He didn’t sleep at all that night.

Early morning he got out of bed with a fake sense of hope and promised it he’d do anything. He started by asking his buddies in the customer support forum. At first he went into general discussion, easing back in, quoting the good old times. They greeted him kindly and posted fun memes. They knew he only came when there were problems in paradise, so their enthusiasm was a little hurtful. He described it carefully, quoted the words, noted the black screen, even gave them some intimate details of things they had done on their last day together. XxcrushbushxX asked for pictures, fucking creep.

“Have you tried a reset?” he had asked. Of course he had tried a reset. “I meant a hard reset”. Just like that, in italics. A hard reset, was he crazy? Erase what they had built these last eight months together? No. Replace the mother board?! No, he was not about to give it the digital equivalent of a lobotomy (also, it would cost like $280). None of them understood, they never did. He logged out without saying goodbye. He needed professional advice. The phone had no answers for him, and the forums didn’t either. But there was someone who may.

He called the place and set an appointment. They drove to the west side with the radio off, the phone on the passenger seat, its black screen weakened but persistent. He started crying. A few tears first, uncontrollable gasps of air shortly after. “Is this what you want?” he asked. “It’s over between us,” it insisted in a font as small as a whisper. He rolled slowly into the parking lot, trying to gain his composure, parking in the same spot. It had taken him a long time to get to Verizon. Had he prolonged the drive, taking extra turns knowing the chances were slim? Why was he been lost? Was it his sadness? His teary eyes? His lack of access to Google Maps? Probably the latter, but also the sadness.

Dan remembered them, and he was kind, and empathetic, and listened carefully. He listened to him first, and then took it to the back of the room, see what he could do. Mark stood by the door, with his back to all other phones, as if they were also somehow responsible for his pain. After several minutes Dan called him with a sad nod. He didn’t even need to hear it. Dan’s words came with the empathetic meaninglessness of a cancer doctor. “I’ve been trying to get a sense of its issue, and it seems clear to me that it’s best if you both move on.” He was right, and he knew it, and he just needed to hear it from him to realize it was over. Mark asked to see it one more time. “I just want to pick up my SIM and SD cards,” he said. Dan put it on the table and gave them a moment. The phone waited in silence while he carefully reached in and removed them. He held his battery in his hands, feeling its heat one last time. The phone was all dark now, no text. Just the resigned sadness of a mirror that reflects what could have been.

Mark knew what would happen next: they were going to reset it, clean it up, place it back on display. Someone would find it, and it would be good. As he exited the store he turned around one last time to see Dan starting the reset, the phone’s screen lighting up again, fading in his colorful light. He was thankful at their times together, and he smiled at the prospect of his phone’s future happiness.

He got on his car, wiped down his tears, and started the radio. Maybe he’d go home and take a bath. Call the boys, grab a beer. First he could take the long way back, eat at the Chinese place near the Apple store. “What is Apple up to?” he wondered. Maybe he would drop in to take a look. Maybe he could find something he could use for just a couple of months. Something casual, something fun.

Las sonrisas regaladas de mi vieja

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Feliz cumpleaños Ampis!

Creo que te he dicho que mi primera memoria es abrir los ojos de una siesta en tus brazos, y verte sonriendo. Estamos en un barco, atravesando el océano Pacífico, viajando, parece, hacia el sol. Desde entonces me has regalado 30 años de sonrisas. Sonreíste con ternura en esa primera memoria, y mientras yo aprendía a crecer y me equivocaba tú sonreías con compasión. Sonreías con alivio cada vez que las sesiones de quimioterapia del Sebas terminaban, y sonreíste un sol entero después de la última. Sonreíste también años después cuando el Sebas te mostró entre las vísceras del Supermaxi un riñón y dijo: “Mami, me compras uno de estos?”

ampis

Sonreías al llegar a la casa después de un día largo de trabajo. Sonreíste también cuando la pubertad me convirtió en un signo de advertencia, y hasta en los momentos más preocupantes de mi juventud (un par con policía involucrada) sonreías después del castigo y la lección aprendida.

Con lágrimas en los ojos sonreíste también cuando me fui por primera vez, y le sonreíste a la gringita cuando le ayudaste en el hospital. Sonríes a la distancia y sonríes cada vez que nos abrazamos en las puertas de tantos aeropuertos. Entre llantos de felicidad sonríes cada primero de enero cuando después del cero la familia se abraza. Sonreíste cuando mi ñaña dijo “sí.” Sonreíste con la llegada de tus nietos, con el sueño cumplido de la casa perfecta. Sonríes cuando el tono de la llamada internacional se conecta. Cada vez que le llamas a la Lolita, cada llamada de mi ñaña, cada vez que le perdonas a mi papá por sus bellas ridiculeces (esas ridiculeces que tan a pesar de uno se heredan). Con cada sol, con cada día tibio, con cada café en la noche, con la luz del velador apagándose, sonrisas!

Te levantas todos los días lista para regalar sonrisas a quien se te cruce. Hacer sonreír a la gente es ahora tu profesión. En la distancia te imagino sonriendo a tus compañeros de clase, mientras estudias. Veo las sonrisas detrás de los documentos subrayados, de los cuadernos donde anotas las voces de tus pacientes, que poco a poco se van animando a sonreírte.

Gracias, vieja bella, por tanta sonrisa. No solo porque iluminan mis días y los días de tantos, sino porque son lecciones de vida. Con ellas nos has enseñado que la felicidad, la sonrisa propia, se mide por la cantidad de gente que sonríe a nuestro alrededor. Así viajo por la vida, Amparito, como en un barco atravesando un océano iluminado de sonrisas, tratando de asegurarme de que todos los pasajeros que me acompañan se bañen un poco de ese sol. Así que por tu cumpleaños quiero regalarte una sonrisa de vuelta, quiero que sepas que detrás de estas líneas estoy yo, a pesar de la distancia, pensando en ti. Te imagino leyendo estas líneas hoy, en tu cumpleaños. ¿Estás sonriendo? ¡Yo también! Ese es mi regalo de cumpleaños, la celebración de tu vida y la de nuestra hermosa familia: una sonrisa.

The JFK “I am a jelly donut” thing is not true and now I’m reconsidering citizenship

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Around 4 to 6 years ago I got married to a woman despite the fact that she was from the United States. Don’t get me wrong, the people are nice and all, but I’m from South America, and you took the name “America” from us, along with our fruit, our oil and 4 to 6 democratically elected presidents that didn’t quite liked that. So don’t take it personally if “place of origin” was on the cons list.

But Autumn told stories about a place with vulnerability, and empathy, and multicultural understanding, and she told me about the day when one of the most significant presidents of American history said “I am a jelly donut” in German. And I realized “America” was possible. Because it meant Kennedy was a flawed, clumsy human like the rest of us, and in that moment millions of people in Berlin (in Berlin!) saw a world leader saying “I’m soft, I’m warm, I’m filled with jelly,” and people were like “Lol, you’re not a donut but are you baked?” To be able to empathize with Kennedy, wow. That’s hope. That’s the American Dream right there.

Well, not quite. I first heard it from Charlie Kojis and Adam McShane’s podcast “Adam asks Chuck,” and I got official confirmation from the Internet. It turns out people did not hear it that way. So the saner, empathetic version of America that my mind held is gone. Great. Wish I knew that before I completed my citizenship application. All I have left is right turns on red lights and unlimited refills of Coke products at Chipotle. And my wife, of course, who has taught me so much (including the differences between who and whom), and whom I love so much. She really is a beautiful jelly donut, despite of course of her “cons”. Which I guess are now mine. Sigh.

And that is all. Good night and gesundheit.

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All of the 5th Beatles, ranked from 1st 5th Beatle to 5th 5th Beatle

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Everybody remembers the Beatles by hit songs such as “Love me Do,” “She loves you,” “All You Need is Love,” and “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?” but did you know they were not alone? There was always a 5th person along the way. A person so important to the band he was considered the 5th Beatle… Problem is, nobody, not even The Beatles, agree on who this 5th Beatle was. So I decided to end the debate once and for all and rank all of the 5th Beatles.

Before doing so, I’ll start with my obligatory rank of the 4 members of the band.

1. George Harrison. The most inspiring Beatle. He taught me to be at peace with myself and others. If you disagree, well then go to hell.

2. John Lennon. He usually ranks 1st, but just because he was the first one to die. That helps. For me, a better argument would be that he wrote a song called “Everybody Has Something to Hide Except for Me and my Monkey,” which encompasses everything there is to love about John: he was honest, he was irreverent, and he carried a small sized primate everywhere he went.

3. Paul McCartney. I used to think he wrote the best songs. That was yesterday. Although you gotta give it to Paul for being the best drummer in the Beatles.

4. Ringo Starr. Although lots of people make fun of Ringo, it’s undeniable that he was one of the Beatles.

And now, I present to you my official ranking of all the 5th Beatles:

george-martin

1st 5th Beatle: George Martin. Not only he was crucial producing and arranging their discography, George Martin also called dibs when the whole “who´s the 5th Beatle” question came up.

epstein

2nd 5th Beatle: Brian Epstein. He discovered them and told them they should dress in a more “civilized” manner. Basically he was the Christopher Columbus of The Beatles. He died before John, so that also amounts to something I guess.

pete-best

3rd 5th Beatle: Pete Best. When he was in the band people knew Pete as the Best Beatle. But he was no Starr, so he was replaced.

neil-aspinall_ink_li

4th 5th Beatle: Neil Aspinall. He drove the van.

uncle-phil

5th 5th Beatle: Your uncle Phil: Not only he has kept the original pressings of the complete discography he got in the early 70s, your uncle Phil also saw Paul McCartney going into the Paramount theater in New York in 1966, and he claims he actually reached out and touched his shoulder.

This Woody Allen Science Fiction Script That Never Saw the Light of Day Is Amazing

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I used to be a huge Woody Allen fan. I still am, but I used to too. I love his movies, particularly his “early funny ones,” to quote one of the aliens that briefly appear from Stardust Memories, a movie that was not science fiction but included a space ship and some aliens.

Now that I think about it, Woody Allen has extensive credit as a Science Fiction author. Besides this clip there’s of course 1973’s Sleeper (which features a menacingly giant banana), but also several of his short films that appear in Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (which features a menacingly giant boob), and his segment on the collective film New York Stories (which features a menacingly giant mother in the sky. Do you see a pattern here?)

But today I discovered his best. I found his album “The Night Club Years: 1964-1968” a year or so ago in a discount bin. I didn’t go home to play it immediately. I kept it in my record collection for the same reasons rich people keep dogs: just to show off (and if I’m being honest, I must confess that’s 80% of the reason why I own records). But I’m glad I listened to it today. He does this bit that is so absurd that it sounds fresher than the freshest fruits being harvested in modern stand-up.

So I thought I’d share.

Woody Allen

The Science Fiction Film

The Night Club Years: 1964-1968

I wrote a science fiction film which I’ll tell you about.

It’s ten after four in the afternoon, and everybody in the world mysteriously falls asleep.

Just like that.

They are driving cars, whatever they are doing, bang!, they go to sleep. The Russians, the Chinese, the Americans.

And the whole world sleeps for exactly one hour, till ten after five. And they wake up at ten after five and mysteriously upon awakening everybody in the world find themselves in the pants business.

Stay with us, ’cause it’s brilliant.

Everybody is making cuffs and flies and cutting velvet, y’know, And a spaceship lands from another planet, and men get out with jackets and shirts and black socks – no trousers at all.

They say: “Are the pants ready?” We say: “No. Could you come back thursday?”

They say they must have them, ’cause they are going to a wedding, and we work dillingently and make pants constantly and they come to get them, and when they come to pick them up, they leave us with socks, hankerchiefs, pillowcases and soiled linnen, and they say: “Do it!”

And the president of the United States goes on television and says that an alien superpower from outer space with superior intelligence is bringing us their laundry, and they are foiled, ’cause they travelled a hundred and seventeen million lightyears to pick it up, and they forget their ticket.

And here’s the bit:

Now I gotta tell you, not only this is my favorite science fiction piece by Woody Allen. This is now my favorite stand-up joke of all time. Although I have seen some Bill Cosby at my local St. Vinnys. Will report back in a year or so.

SPECIAL REPORT: Rumors that Everything Matches Up Well with “The Dark Side of the Moon” Confirmed

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Is it possible that any video you watch will match well with Pink Floyd’s 1973 classic album? Am I just forcing a connection between two things that don’t really match, like me and my high-school girlfriend that day we tried solving a jigsaw puzzle? Or is everything and everyone on this galaxy connected and things like these are just small reminders that we are all one? This is my train of thought when I put the first track of “The Dark Side of the Moon” over this weird old cartoon. Guess what happened. Check specially 0:31 to 1:31.

I feel like I’ll become famous because of this. Just as famous as the guy that first discovered the Wizard of Oz connection. Is that guy famous?

Alright, I’ll take your questions.

 

How did you arrive to this old cartoon video?

I found this image on Reddit of a Capybara getting a gorgeous massage from a super sexy black cat. After visiting a couple of Capybara subreddits (yeah there’s a couple), I went back to the comments and saw people being reminded of this awesome old-style cartoon.

Do you always have problems using generic adjectives when describing “awesome old-style cartoons”?

How else would I describe it? I know nothing of cartoons except I loved them all.

Why did you add Pink Floyd to the song?

For some reason I immediately thought of The Wizard of Oz. Maybe because it seemed so sweet, so unguarded and naive, but strange, like holding a secret message. I So I had no choice but to see what would happen if I play it along The Dark Side of the Moon. So I placed the song somewhat randomly over the video.

Somewhat randomly?

somewhat…

What’s coming in the future?

I don’t know yet. Maybe I’ll create a space called “The BLANK side of the BLANK,” were I match all kinds of stuff to Pink Floyd. Maybe I’ll try to drink orange juice in the morning while playing “animals.”

Anything else before we publish this to the world?

Yes, just a general warning. Before we proceed, my wife hates these kind of cartoons, although not as much as the black and white psychedelic ones. In any case, if you’re my wife, maybe skip this one.

Thanks

 

 

 

 

 

5/25/2116: Teenage Clone of Shakespeare Finally Breaks Silence

News of Tomorrow Today

William Shakespeare’s clone –Willy, as he’s known around the lab –finally spoke for the first time this Saturday evening since hatching more than a year ago.

“Horrible connection,” he said to a shocked lab assistant, who promptly pressed the “Speak thou” alarm-button, especially created while waiting for this occasion.

Are the Bard’s first words since 1616 a reflection on human relationships in this frivolous, meta-postmodern world or a commentary on Comcast’s $120 Internet+line bundle?

“Regardless, it’s an incredible achievement,” said biotechnology professor/Reality TV star Alan Womberg, leader of the McBeth project, who finally starts to see the results of a project that has been almost a hundred years in its making.

Shakespeare’s body has been resting at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-Upon-Avon since his original death in 1616, with the following inscription:

“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he who moves my bones.”

Almost 496 years later, in November of 2112, a group of scientists had managed to barely open it up just wide enough to rub a q-tip over its contents and put the sample on a vitro glass. “Bones were not moved,” declared Alicia Simmons,  archaeological director of the British Cultural Society, “we just gave a little rub off the sacrum.” The idea was to confirm, preserve, and study its genetic code, but due to funding issues the specimen landed into the lap of a scientific team lead by Womberg, who tirelessly worked in the laboratories of UCLA, California, where they had different plans. In January 2115 Willy was succesfully hatched.

“It was an exciting time, but nerve-wracking,” Says Womberg. “We were not only concerned by the scientific challenge of cloning humanity’s most famous wordsmith, but also went through a lot of pressure from Netflix, who was financing the project to put a documentary on-demand by pilot season in 2121.” Netflix also has partial copyright to every new play/screen play/performance piece.

This was part of the reason why Womberg’s team decided to clone Shakespeare directly into near adulthood. Almost out of puberty, Willy was born as old as his own unforgettable teenager lover. This may explain why this gentle and dear Romeo is still learning the intricacies and turns of the English language, and he’s yet to write a single word. “He probably wants to make sure he dominates it before dwelling into more unforgettable classics,” a spokesman for the McBeth Project stated. Reportedly, so far he seems to be more concerned about Claire Danes scenes in Baz Lhurman’s 1996 take on the classic star-crossed lover’s story, but as some lab assistants recognize, that may be just because video playback lags sometimes on the wi-fi connection.

The bard has been given coal pencils, pen and ink, a typewriter and a computer. “He has been learning to surf the web” says Womberg, “he easily learned to save screenshots and open incognito tabs, but he still has problems creating new documents on Word.”

“Horrible connection” is now officially the last sentence spoken by Shakespeare, but not the last written, since he still hasn’t put anything on paper. However, the team is positive about the future. “There’s still more Shakespeare to come,” announced Netflix on their Facebook page.

As his previously last-known work, a passage in “The Two Noble Kingsmen,” written in 1613, is for now still considered Shakespeare’s last written words. It’s a passage addressed to the Gods:

Oh you heavenly charmers,
What things you make of us! For what we lack
We laugh, for what we have are sorry, still
Are children in some kind. Let us be thankful
For that which is, and with you leaves disputes
That are above our question. Let’s go off
And bear us like the time.
 

Go to McBethProjectonline.com to listen to a SoundCloud recording of the event, and follow Netflix on Facebook to get the latest Shakespeare updates.

#HorribleConnection

Marriage, Ice Cream, and Other Errands

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This is an extended adaptation of a story I told live at the first ever The Moth event here in Madison, WI. The theme of the night was “Love Hurts”. 

We eat in silence, and pack our campsite in silence, and get in our rented Chevy HHR in silence, because we know that one way or another our relationship ends today. It really ends, because we have decided in the middle of our Route 66 trip that we have to go get married. And it sucks.

We have been planning our trip for the better part of a year now. From Chicago to LA, watching the remains of the golden glory of 50s Americana and the rotting traffic signs which are as useless as the abandoned towns they used to serve. Perhaps unconsciously we painstakingly planned a trip to the past knowing that after reaching the Santa Monica Pier the future looks as hazy and open as the Pacific Ocean. My student visa will expire, and Aut will accept her new awesome job, and we don’t want to talk about what happens when Route 66 ends because hey, we should stop at the Catoosa Whale!

 

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The Catoosa Whale. Catoosa, Oklahoma

Marriage seems like the only feasible plan, but it also means losing something we believe fundamental to our relationship. We have been telling everyone (especially my mom) that we don’t need a paper to love each other, we don’t need a paper to be together. But then the US government was all like “yeah, you do.” We would love to believe love knows no boundaries, despite what the US Customs and Borders Protection Agency says. But love does seem to know boundaries, apparently, and those boundaries are pushing us north towards Las Vegas. “I hate Las Vegas,” she says, and even though I don’t say a thing she knows I agree.

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The Detour

As we drive through the Arizona desert a 30 mile per hour sandstorm engulfs us. Outside, there’s nothing but red sand blowing ominously on our windshield, and inside the silenced cabin of our HHR, the second ugliest car in the world (the first is the PT Cruiser, which is the HHR doppleganger), the atmosphere is almost as violent. I’m holding  the steering wheel tightly. Aut sits in silence, looking out the window. I know what she’s thinking: “I can’t believe I’m doing this for him, just to get him a Green Card.” But we just drove by the biggest ketchup bottle in the world, and the largest rocking chair in the world, so I’m thinking, “I can’t believe I’m doing this for her, I’ll be living in this country!”

 

Autumn starts to look ahead as the windstorm starts winding down, and I wait for her to say something. She turns to me and says, “you know, this is just paperwork. We’re off to do some errands.” We don’t have to get married. We just have to do some paperwork so that the U.S. government thinks we are married. I look at her. She’s trying to smile. It’s almost comforting. That’s it, I say. As long as we keep this casual and unimportant, we’ll be fine! She’s right, of course. As usual. We just have to make sure we do this uneventfully. No significant memories. No symbolic rituals.

We have to not tell it to anyone, ever. Or, you know, write about it.

And we’re off, just a regular, boring day where nothing interesting will happen. The thought comfort us and we start looking at each other from time to time, turning the awful thought of marriage into a joke. After all, we’re going to lie to the government. And the thought of committing a federal offense is kind of funny.

We hit Flagstaff, Arizona, and we go into a pay-by-the-weight thrift shop. I get a suit, tie, and shirt,  and she picks up the simplest, most boring white dress she could find, and we pay $2.40 for everything. After all, we need the official in my Green Card interview to think this is a meaningful day for us. That fool. Aut insists on trying on her dress, and as soon as she walks out of the dressing room time slows down, a fan starts blowing her hair, and all lights turn down except for the one above her. I immediately know I will never get this vision out of my head. “How do I look?” She says, with her eyes shining as much as her white dress. “You look adequate” I say, trying to get this errand behind us.

As much as a pleasant shock it was to see her, we’re still alright. We still have not had a spiritual moment, so we can still do this without any repercussions. But then we stop for ice cream at Delgadillo’s Snow-Cap in Seligman.

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The Temple of Americana

We’ve already read that the owners are tricksters, so we’re watching carefully for the fake “Enter here” signs, the double door knobs, or a fake mustard squeeze on our shirts. We’re laughing and we easily forget our errand for a while. We see a column covered in coins from all over the world, and in silence Aut takes out an Ecuadorian coin and together we use tape to display it on a space that seemed to be waiting for it. It feels ominous to place a plaque of my origin on this temple of Americana. Without knowing it we have willingly started the ritual. As we approach the counter to pay, the man that has been standing behind us taps me in the shoulder and insists on paying for our ice cream. He’s dressed in black, he’s wearing a hat, and he’s hiding behind a pair of low-shade sunglasses. “I can see you’re on a journey,” he says, and tells us about his own. He has escaped his responsibilities with Penguin publishing, suddenly quitting his book tour, and is driving without aim away from Kansas. Just like us, the call for ice cream has made him stop here, and encounter us. “I am the country’s most prominent translator and interpreter of  13th century Persian poet Rumi,” he says. He talks delicately and he clicks his tongue at the end of each word. He seems to meditate on each one he pronounces. His apparent speech impediment gives his voice a mysterious authority, and a sense of wise loneliness, the kind all wise men must have. “You have reminded me of some of his poetry,” he adds. His voice changes, and the words of the poem come out fluidly, like a 700 year-old echo:

To my eyes, lovers touching are folded wings
in a beautiful prayer.

But yes, what heights and great expanse one
can also reach

when tenderness is placed upon the bow, and
our spirits know no gravity.

 

We look at him in silence, enthralled by the words. “Fuck this guy,” I think. He just ruined our plans. He just got us married. He’s the priest, the employees behind the counter our guests, the smiling anthropomorphic ice cream cone our witness. We look to each other, ashamed in our recognition of how meaningful and absurd the episode is, and we smile, pleased and thankful for the inane ceremony. When we turn around the man is gone. “Will that be all?” the man behind the counter says. “That is all,” Aut says.

The rest is easy. We get into the car, we change in a rest stop outside the city, and we choose the cheapest package the little Vegas chapel can offer us. “Rings or no rings? Vows or no vows? God or no God?” the minster asks us. We answer “no” to all of the above, and as the man recites his empty and memorized speech we look at each other laughing. And as the minster asks me the required, official marriage question I think of one of my own. Could I live here if that means sharing with her the road? Could she live with me if we share some poetry and ice cream? “I do”, I answer out loud. “I do,” she says too. And we burst out laughing, and get in our HHR, and open our road map because we need to plan for lunch, find a campsite, and prepare for the rest of our journey together.